Opposition to wind turbines and farms is worldwide. Experts have insisted for years that they are not safe for humans or wildlife (see 1, 2). In fact, last year a French court ruled in favor of a couple who reportedly become sick after wind turbines were installed near their home. More recently an American wind energy company was sentenced and fined for causing the deaths of at least 150 eagles.
Wind energy company kills 150 eagles in US, pleads guilty
By MATTHEW BROWN
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A wind energy company was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay more than $8 million in fines and restitution after at least 150 eagles were killed over the past decade at its wind farms in eight states, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
NextEra Energy subsidiary ESI Energy pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act during a Tuesday court appearance in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was charged criminally in the deaths of nine eagles at three of its wind farms in Wyoming and New Mexico.
In addition to those deaths, ESI acknowledged the deaths of golden and bald eagles at 50 wind farms affiliated with ESI and NextEra since 2012. The birds died in eight states, prosecutors said: Wyoming, California, New Mexico, North Dakota, Colorado, Michigan, Arizona and Illinois.
The birds are killed when they fly into the blades of wind turbines. Some ESI turbines killed multiple eagles and because the carcasses are not always found, officials said the number killed was likely higher than the 150 birds cited by prosecutors in court documents.
NextEra’s plea deal comes amid a push by President Joe Biden for more renewable energy from wind, solar and other sources to help reduce climate changing emissions. It also follows a renewed commitment by federal wildlife officials under Biden to enforce protections for eagles and other birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, after criminal prosecutions were halted under former President Donald Trump.
It’s illegal to kill or harm eagles under federal law.
The bald eagle — the U.S. national symbol — was removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2007, following a dramatic recovery from widespread decimation due to harmful pesticides and other problems. Wildlife officials say more than 300,000 bald eagles now occupy the U.S., not including Alaska.
Golden eagles have not fared as well, with populations considered stable but under pressure from wind farms, collisions with vehicles, illegal shootings and poisoning from lead ammunition. There are an estimated 31,800 golden eagles in the Western U.S., according to a study released last week by leading eagle researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other entities.
More than 2,000 golden eagles are killed annually due to human causes, or about 60% of all deaths, the researchers said. The study concluded that golden eagle deaths “will likely increase in the future” because of wind energy development and other human activities.
Companies historically have been able to avoid prosecution under the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty if they take steps to avoid bird deaths and seek permits for those that occur. ESI did not seek such a permit, authorities said.